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Monday, April 3, 2017

[MNT gains 0.9% in March; anti-graft protest held; EBRD highlights dairy; and UB to phase out raw coal]

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Monday, April 3, 2017

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Jump to: Int'l Market - Local Market - Economy - Politics & Legal - Business - Ulaanbaatar - Diplomacy - Health & Education - Culture & Society - Nature & Environment - Sports - Art & Entertainment - Travel

Headlines in Italic are ones modified by Cover Mongolia from original

 

HEADLINES

Int'l Market

·         SouthGobi Resources announces fourth quarter and full year 2016 financial and operating results and updated resource estimate and newly declared reserve estimate in respect of Ovoot Tolgoi

·         Wolf Petroleum: Regulatory Approval of Exploration Programme

·         Haranga Resources: Annual Report, December 2016

·         Tian Poh: Annual Financial Report

·         Wang Tai: Annual Results

·         E-Commodities Swinging to Profit May Trigger Contingent Value Rights

Local Market

·         MSE Weekly Report: Top 20 +0.55%, ALL +0.06%, ₮481.9M Shares, ₮2.5B T-Bills Traded, ₮14.1B T-Bills Issued

·         FRC Revokes Asia Pacific Securities' Underwriting License

·         FRC Revokes Frontier Securities' Underwriting License

·         Mark Garnier MP, UK's International Trade Minister, Visits Mongolian Stock Exchange

Economy

·         MNT gains for 6th day vs USD; USD/MNT down ₮4.99 Friday to ₮2447.45

·         BoM issues ₮386.8 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding +9% to ₮1.1 trillion

·         Talks on Japanese soft loan to be held after IMF's financial program approved

Politics & Legal

·         Mongolians protest over alleged theft of government funds

·         MP Ts. Nyamdorj casts further doubt over S. Zorig murder trial

·         Will 2017 meet Mongolia's mega hopes from mega projects?

·         AmCham Daily Newswire for March 31, 2017

Business

·         EBRD highlights opportunities in Mongolia's dairy sector

·         Austrade: Austmine Mongolia Mission 2017, April 2-7

·         'Transit Mongolia' forum to be held in Beijing

·         Jeju firms bag US$3 mln in contracts for local goods shipments abroad

Ulaanbaatar

·         Temperature will reach 16C today in UB

·         Mongolian capital to ban low-grade coal to ease smog

Diplomacy

·         Speaker M.Enkhbold addresses 136th IPU Assembly in Dhaka

·         Mongolia and Bangladesh agree to establish its parliamentary groups

·         Mongolian Foreign Minister to visit Vietnam on April 2-4

·         DeFacto Interview: John Langtry, Australian Ambassador to Mongolia

·         Chinese Embassy donates Kanjur and Tanjur scriptures

·         Mongolian Ambassador to Russia visits Plekhanov Russian University of Economics

·         Mongolian Tourism Sector Sharing Experiences with Cuba

Health & Education

·         Renowned Indian doctors to visit Ulaanbaatar to share practices

·         Mongolian script promoted in Sukhbaatar aimag

Culture & Society

·         Marc Tasse: Mongolia has huge potential to be a world player

·         Nomads of Mongolia: An insight into their tribes, traditions and culture

·         Why I Love Mongolia: An Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author Jack Weatherford

·         Moscow and Mongolia, Bridged by Skype

Nature & Environment

·         Deadly winters, climate change spell doom for Mongolian herders

·         Mongolia to host Asia Partnership meeting on Disaster Risk Reduction

·         UN Special Representative to visit Mongolia for disaster risk meeting

Sports

·         Mongolian senior speed-skaters claim 4 cups in Netherlands

·         Meeting the mother of the Olle Trails: an odyssey

Travel

·         Mongolian Sojourn in the Land of Genghis Khan

 

 

ARTICLES

Int'l Market

1878 trading -7.2% in early morning trading

SouthGobi Resources announces fourth quarter and full year 2016 financial and operating results and updated resource estimate and newly declared reserve estimate in respect of Ovoot Tolgoi

HONG KONG, CHINA--(Marketwired - March 31, 2017) - SouthGobi Resources Ltd. (TSX: SGQ)(HKSE:1878) (the "Company" or "SouthGobi") today announces its financial and operating results for the quarter and the year ended December 31, 2016. All figures are in U.S. dollars ("USD") unless otherwise stated.

Significant Events and Highlights

The Company's significant events and highlights for the year ended December 31, 2016 and the subsequent period to March 31, 2017 are as follows:

Operating Results - Although the coal prices generally improved in China during 2016, the impact of negotiating coal sale agreements during lower coal price periods and the depreciation of the Renminbi against the USD negatively impacted the overall coal prices achieved by the Company. The Company sold 1.08 million tonnes of coal during the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to 0.21 million tonnes in the fourth quarter of 2015. The production for the fourth quarter of 2016 was 1.21 million tonnes, compared to 0.62 million tonnes for the fourth quarter of 2015. The Company maintained a strong safety record and completed the fourth quarter of 2016 without any lost time injury.

Financial Results - The Company recorded an $11.4 million loss from operations during the fourth quarter of 2016 as compared to a $105.1 million loss from operations in the fourth quarter of 2015. Revenue was $19.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2016 as compared to $2.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2015. The operations during the fourth quarter of 2016 improved over the comparative 2015 quarter given the improved market conditions in China and the $92.7 million of impairment charges that were recorded in the fourth quarter of 2015 to reduce the carrying value of various items of property, plant and equipment to their recoverable amounts.

Expanded Resources and Declared Reserves - As a result of the work performed by Dragon Mining Consulting Limited ("DMCL"), the Company increased its estimate of total resources at the Ovoot Tolgoi deposit from those described in the technical report the Company filed in respect of the Ovoot Tolgoi deposit in May 2016 (the "2016 Technical Report") and has declared reserves for the Ovoot Tolgoi deposit.

Settlement of Trade Receivable - During the year ended December 31, 2016, the Company entered into a settlement agreement with one of the major customers (the "Customer") pursuant to which 200 residential units and 40 parking spaces (collectively, the "240 Units") located in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, are to be transferred to the Company as partial consideration for settling an outstanding trade receivables in the amount of $12.0 million, with the balance of the receivable, totaling $7.5 million, payable in cash by the Customer to the Company by March 31, 2017 (subsequently extended to May 10, 2017). As the title transfers on the agreement could not be completed prior to December 31, 2016, the transaction cannot be completed and recorded in the Company's accounts until such titles are properly registered in the Company's name. The settlement agreement includes an option for the Company to return any unsold units back to the Customer, until September 30, 2017, at the same price per unit for immediate payment of the balance in cash. As of the date hereof, the title transfer registration in Mongolia has been completed for a material portion of the 240 Units but additional time will be required to finalize the administrative process for the registration of the remaining portion of the 240 Units due to the number of units involved, the Company has been working closely with the government authority to facilitate the process. The Company anticipates that the title registration process will be completed shortly and the sales of the 240 Units will commence during the second quarter of 2017. To March 31, 2017, the Company has collected $3.5 million from the Customer to settle the outstanding trade receivables and on March 27, 2017 entered into a deferral agreement to extend the payment due date on the remaining uncollected balance to May 10, 2017.

Short-term Bridge Loan - In October 2015, the Company entered into a short term bridge loan facility with an Asian based private equity fund for maximum proceeds of $10.0 million. The Company has repaid the first tranche of the short-term bridge loan of $5.0 million (inclusive of interest) up to August 11, 2016. During June and July 2016, the Company drew the second tranche of $5.0 million. $1.5 million has been matured in March 2017 and $3.5 million will mature in April 2017. In December 2016, $1.5 million was repaid for the short-term bridge loan and a further $1.8 million and $1.6 million was subsequently repaid in January 2017 and March 2017, respectively.

Shareholder Loan - On May 16, 2016, Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd ("Turquoise Hill") signed a deferral letter agreement with the Company (the "May 2016 Deferral Letter Agreement"), in which Turquoise Hill agreed to a limited deferral of repayment of all remaining amounts and obligations owing under the Turquoise Hill shareholder loan (the "TRQ Loan"). The Company has agreed to repay $0.15 million per month from May 2016 to April 2017; and $0.2 million per month from May 2017 to December 2017, at which time all remaining obligations will become due. Interest shall continue to accrue on all outstanding obligations at the 12-month US dollar LIBOR rate. To date, the Company has made all payments due under the May 2016 Deferral Letter Agreement.

China Investment Corporation ("CIC") Convertible Debenture (the "CIC Convertible Debenture") - On December 29, 2016, the Company executed the December 2016 Deferral Agreement ("December 2016 Deferral Agreement") with CIC for a revised repayment schedule on the $20.7 million of cash interest and associated costs originally due on December 19, 2016 ("December 2016 Deferral Amounts"). The key repayment terms of the December 2016 Deferral Agreement are: (i) the Company is required to repay $6.8 million of the cash interest and associated deferral fee costs in five monthly amounts during the period from December 2016 to April 2017; and (ii) the Company is required to repay $14.3 million of cash interest and associated costs on May 19, 2017. Although the Company has been in discussions with CIC for a further deferral, there can be no assurance that a favorable outcome can be reached. At any time before the December 2016 Deferral Amounts are fully repaid, the Company is required to consult with and obtain written consent from CIC prior to effecting a replacement or termination of either or both of its Chief Executive Officer and its Chief Financial Officer; otherwise this will constitute an event of default under the CIC Convertible Debenture, but CIC shall not withhold its consent if the board of directors proposes to replace either or both such officers with nominees selected by the Board, provided that the directors acted honestly and in good faith with a view to the best interests of the Company in the selection of the applicable replacements. To date, the Company has made all payments due under the December 2016 Deferral Agreement.

Class Action Lawsuit - On May 24, 2016, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (the "Ontario Court") granted the Company leave to appeal the decision made on November 5, 2015 (the "Corporation Appeal"), which granted the plaintiff permission to commence an action claiming damages under the Ontario Securities Act with respect to the Company's restatement of consolidated financial statements as previously disclosed in the Company's public filings. The plaintiff is also appealing the portion of the November 5, 2015 Ontario Court decision that dismissed the action against former officers and directors of the Company (the "Individual's Appeal").

The Individuals' Appeal and the Corporation Appeal will now be verbally argued together. The appeals are scheduled to be heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal in June 2017. The Company disputes and is vigorously defending itself against the plaintiff's claims through independent Canadian litigation counsel retained by the Company and the other defendants for this purpose. Due to the inherent uncertainties of litigation, it is not possible to predict the final outcome of the appeals or determine the amount of potential losses, if any. However, the Company has judged a provision for this matter at December 31, 2016 is not required.

Tax Investigation Case in Mongolia - In May 2016, Resolution No.258 of the Government of Mongolia ("Resolution 258") was issued, which approved the Company's proposal to settle the Tax Penalty (as defined and described under "Governmental and Regulatory Investigations" in section "Regulatory Issues and Contingencies") by making a series of cash payments and by performing mining operations at the Tavan Tolgoi deposit in Southern Mongolia on behalf of Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi JSC ("Erdenes"), a company owned by the Government of Mongolia. During 2016, the Company made cash payments of $2.4 million as a partial settlement of the Tax Penalty.

In compliance with the Resolution 258, in November 2016, the Company entered into an agreement with Erdenes under which the Company agreed to perform certain mining operations equivalent to Mongolian Tugrik ("MNT") 20.3 billion (approximately $8.1 million) in the West Tsankhi section of the Tavan Tolgoi deposit during the period from November 2016 to February 2017. As at December 31, 2016, the Company had performed mining operations consisting of drilling and blasting of rock mass, stripping and loading topsoil, selective excavation and loading coal, and creating overburden stockpiles at the Tavan Tolgoi deposit equivalent to MNT 5.2 billion (approximately $2.1 million).

As at December 31, 2016, the provision for the Tax Verdict (as defined below in "Governmental and Regulatory Investigations" of section "Regulatory Issues and Contingencies") was reduced to $9.3 million.

As of the date hereof, the Company has completed the mining operations at the Tavan Tolgoi deposit equivalent to MNT 20.3 billion (approximately $8.1million) as set out in the agreement with Erdenes. The Company is required to make further cash payments of $3.0 million in 2017 to complete repayment of the balance of the penalty owing.

Notice of Arbitration The Company is subject to arbitration proceedings with First Concept Logistics Limited ("First Concept") with respect to a dispute with respect to the supply of coal under a coal sale agreement. The arbitration hearing with First Concept was held in the fourth quarter of 2016. The arbitration decision is expected to be released in the second quarter of 2017.

Settlement of ClaimbyFormer Chief Executive Officer The claim by Mr. Alex Molyneux ("Mr. Molyneux"), the Company's former President and Chief Executive Officer, and the counterclaim by the Company, has been settled by a payment by the Company to Mr. Molyneux of the sum of $0.29 million, without admission of liability by either party. As a term of the settlement, the Company and Mr. Molyneux executed mutual general releases, and the action and counterclaim were dismissed as against all parties by consent without court costs payable to any party, effective on November 25, 2016.

Settlement of Lawsuit Notice from a Former Fuel Supplier - On January 20, 2017, the Company announced that SouthGobi Sands LLC ("SGS"), a subsidiary of the Company, had received a lawsuit notice from the Khan-Uul District Civil Court of First Instance in Mongolia (the "DC Court") in relation to a claim from Magnai Trade LLC ("MTLLC"), a former fuel supplier of SGS, for MNT 22.2 billion (approximately $8.9 million) consisting of MNT 14.6 billion (approximately $5.8 million) of outstanding fuel supply payments and MNT 7.6 billion (approximately $3.1 million) of late payment penalties and associated interest costs.

Following SGS' successful challenge to the authority of the DC Court to hear the matter, the Company signed a settlement agreement with MTLLC on February 10, 2017, pursuant to which the outstanding amount of $7.9 million will be settled in equal monthly installments of $2.0 million from March 2017 to June 2017.

Novel Sunrise Investments Limited ("Novel Sunrise") sold 25.8 million Sharesto a Company Owned by Members of Management - On January 11, 2017, Novel Sunrise, the Company's largest shareholder at the time, reported that it had sold 25.8 million common shares of the Company effective December 31, 2016 to Voyage Wisdom Limited ("Voyage Wisdom"), a company owned by three members of the Company's management team, for consideration of $24 million.

Changes in Directors

Mr. Huiyi Wang: Mr. Wang was appointed as a Non-Executive Director on February 18, 2016.

Mr. Pierre Lebel: Mr. Lebel retired as Lead Director and an Independent Non-Executive Director on June 30, 2016.

Mr. Joseph Belan: Mr. Belan was appointed as Independent Non-Executive Director of the Company on August 16, 2016.

Strategic Advisor - On September 16, 2016, the Company established a Strategic Advisory Board and appointed Mr. Abraham (Braam) Jonker as its initial member. The purpose of the Strategic Advisory Board is to provide non-binding strategic guidance and advice to the Board of Directors of the Company in connection with the Company's ongoing business activities and initiatives.

Going Concern - As at the date hereof, the Company has initiated a plan to change the existing product mix to higher value and higher margin outputs by washing certain grades of coal commencing in 2017 in order to produce more premium semi-soft coking coal and to initiate more processing of the lower grades of coal in order to reduce the ash content and improve the selling price and margins on its thermal coal product. The Company has also completed a new mine plan, which incorporates the coal washing and processing systems and contemplates significantly higher volumes of production in order to complement the Company's new product mix and sales volume targets. Such plans will involve the need for a significant level of stripping activities over the next two years and require certain capital expenditures to achieve the designed production outputs. Such expenditures will require the Company to seek additional financing in the form of finance leases, debt or equity. The Company has entered into an agreement for a finance lease on the new wash plant facility but will need financing to complete the thermal coal processing facilities.

There is no guarantee that the Company will be able to successfully secure additional sources of financing. This could result in adjustments to the amounts and classifications of assets and liabilities in the Company's consolidated financial statements and such adjustments could be material. Unless the Company acquires additional sources of financing and/or funding in the short term, the ability of the Company to continue as a going concern is threatened. If the Company is unable to continue as a going concern, it may be forced to seek relief under applicable bankruptcy and insolvency legislation. See section "Liquidity and Capital Resources" for details. As at March 31, 2017, the Company had $5.3 million of cash.

OVERVIEW OF OPERATIONAL DATA AND FINANCIAL RESULTS

Link to release

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WOF trading flat midday at A$0.036

Wolf Petroleum: Regulatory Approval of Exploration Programme

March 31 -- As detailed in the December 2016 Quarterly Activities Report (refer to ASX release dated 30 January 2017), Wolf Petroleum Limited ('the Company') had submitted its proposed exploration programme for the SB Block to the Mongolian government regulatory agencies for approval.

The Company advises that due to certain administrative matters, there was a delay in the regulatory agencies processing the submission. Those administrative matters have now been resolved.

The Company is pleased to advise that it has received regulatory approval for its proposed exploration programme for the SB Block.

A further update will be provided as part of the March 2017 Quarterly Activities Report.

Link to release

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HAR last traded A$0.003 on Feb 23

Haranga Resources: Annual Report, December 2016

March 31, Haranga Resources Ltd. (ASX:HAR) --

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TPO last traded A$0.165 on Jul 13

Tian Poh: Annual Financial Report

April 2, Tian Poh Resources Ltd. (ASX:TPO) --

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1400 trading -7.4% at HK$0.25 in early trading

Wang Tai: Annual Results

March 31, Wang Tai Holdings Ltd. (HKEx:1400) --

HIGHLIGHTS

    The Group's total revenue was approximately RMB780.3 million in 2016, increased from the total revenue of approximately RMB670.3 million in 2015.

    The Group experienced a gross loss of approximately RMB20.8 million in 2016, as compared to a gross profit of approximately RMB8.4 million in 2015. Excluding the impairment loss, the gross loss in 2016 was approximately RMB5.3 million. The gross loss in 2016 included impairment loss on property, plant and equipment of approximately RMB15.5 million.

    The Group's loss increased to approximately RMB331.0 million in 2016, from approximately RMB23.3 million in 2015.

    Basic and diluted earnings per share decreased from loss per share of RMB1.90 cents in 2015 to loss per share of RMB21.70 cents in 2016.

    As at 31 December 2016, the Group's total cash and bank balances and restricted bank deposits amounted to approximately RMB25.0 million (2015: approximately RMB398.4 million), representing a decrease of 93.7% as compared to that as at 31 December 2015.

    The Board did not propose the payment of a final dividend.

Link to release

Related:

Wang Tai: Announcement in Relation to the Accrual and Write-Off of Impairment Provision of the Company's Assets in the Year 2016, March 31

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1733 plunged 7.6% Friday to HK$1.10, trading flat in early Monday

E-Commodities Swinging to Profit May Trigger Contingent Value Rights

March 31 (AAStocks) E-COMMODITIES (01733.HK) issued a notice of triggering event of the Contingent Value Rights (CVRs). Under the terms of the issuance of the CVRs, the contingent value rights are triggered when the company's cash profit before taxation in any financial year exceeds US$100 million. The board announced that, the company on 28 March 2017, as a result of the occurrence of the triggering event, a notice will be issued by the company to each participating bondholder indicating that the company will settle the CVRs in full on the settlement date at the face value recorded on each CVR certificate by the issue of new shares of the company. In accordance with the terms of the CVRs, the settlement date of the CVRs has been scheduled on 30 April 2017 and the settlement price will be determined on the settlement date. all CVRs which are settled in full by the company will forthwith be cancelled and such CVRs may not be reissued or resold.

After close on 28 March, E-COMMODITIES announced the results for the year ended 2016. Net profit was $2.874 billion, against the loss of $1.723 billion in the year-ago period. It fell 3.3%, 17.9% and 7.6% on 29, 30 and 31 March respectively.

Link to article

Link to 1733 release

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Local Market

MSE Weekly Report: Top 20 +0.55%, ALL +0.06%, ₮481.9M Shares, 2.5B T-Bills Traded, 14.1B T-Bills Issued

March 31 (MSE) --

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FRC Revokes Asia Pacific Securities' Underwriting License

March 31 (MSE) In accordance with the resolution No.35 passed by FRC on February 08, 2017, "Asia Pacific Securities" LLC's license for underwriting activity in securities market has been revoked.

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FRC Revokes Frontier Securities' Underwriting License

March 31 (MSE) In accordance with the resolution No.47 passed by FRC on March 10, 2017, "Frontier" LLC's license for underwriting activity in securities market has been revoked. As of today, there are 24 underwriting companies registered at MSE.

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Mark Garnier MP, UK's International Trade Minister, Visits Mongolian Stock Exchange

March 31 (MSE) Today MSE has welcomed Mark Garnier MP, the UK's International Trade Minister. To honor the occasion, he has rung the bell to open today's securities trading session. Minister Mark Garnier, a former investment banker majoring in emerging markets, was involved in developing Mongolian capital market by sharing his opinions and suggestions within the framework of the cooperation between London Stock Exchange Group and Mongolian Stock Exchange. During the visit, he got acquainted with MSE's current activities and market operation and expressed his willingness to promote the cooperation of two exchanges as well as investments towards Mongolia from the UK based investment funds.

Link to release

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Economy

Reds are when MNT fell, greens when it rose. Bold reds are rates that set a new historic high at the time.

BoM MNT Rates: Friday, March 31 Close

 

3/31

3/30

3/29

3/28

3/27

3/24

3/23

3/22

3/21

3/20

High

Date

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USD

2,447.45

2,452.44

2,453.83

2,456.03

2,458.85

2,459.18

2,459.57

2,459.38

2,457.58

2,458.10

2,498.75

1/10/2017

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EUR

2,616.81

2,633.06

2,646.46

2,666.76

2,671.66

2,649.52

2,654.98

2,656.50

2,649.64

2,647.37

2,681.43

11/10/2016

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JPY

21.89

22.08

22.09

22.19

22.32

22.09

22.11

22.06

21.78

21.83

23.49

11/9/2016

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GBP

3,050.50

3,045.07

3,043.85

3,090.42

3,089.30

3,070.04

3,068.81

3,066.97

3,038.31

3,052.47

3,183.26

8/13/2014

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RUB

43.73

43.51

43.07

43.15

43.13

42.81

42.86

42.70

42.89

42.93

54.32

6/27/2014

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CNY

355.15

355.80

356.17

356.74

357.66

356.72

357.08

357.18

356.28

355.99

363.02

1/5/2017

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KRW

2.19

2.20

2.20

2.21

2.21

2.19

2.19

2.19

2.19

2.20

2.21

3/27/2017

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SGD

1,751.87

1,758.02

1,757.07

1,760.78

1,765.08

1,755.99

1,757.65

1,758.27

1,756.79

1,759.93

1,765.08

3/27/2017

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CAD

1,835.43

1,838.82

1,836.56

1,833.54

1,845.01

1,840.98

1,843.69

1,839.68

1,840.95

1,843.48

1,908.84

1/18/2017

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AUD

1,874.38

1,877.96

1,879.76

1,866.95

1,876.23

1,872.79

1,879.36

1,886.47

1,893.32

1,902.08

1,913.20

2/16/2017

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HKD

315.02

315.60

315.89

316.20

316.57

316.60

316.65

316.66

316.46

316.53

322.21

1/10/2017

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CHF

2,445.98

2,461.18

2,469.88

2,491.28

2,496.04

2,474.27

2,476.16

2,478.09

2,465.35

2,463.52

2,497.77

11/09/2016

Bank USD rates at time of sending: Khan (Buy ₮2,436 Sell ₮2,448), TDB (Buy ₮2,436 Sell ₮2,446), Golomt (Buy ₮2,436 Sell ₮2,448), XacBank (Buy ₮2,437 Sell ₮2,449), State Bank (Buy ₮2,436 Sell ₮2,448)

USD (blue), CNY (red) vs MNT in last 1 year:

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BoM issues 386.8 billion 1-week bills, total outstanding +9% to ₮1.1 trillion

March 31 (Bank of Mongolia) BoM issues 1 week bills worth MNT 386.8 billion at a weighted interest rate of 14.0 percent per annum /For previous auctions click here/

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Talks on Japanese soft loan to be held after IMF's financial program approved

Ulaanbaatar, March 31 (MONTSAME) During his visit to Japan on March 27-30, Parliament Speaker M.Enkhbold met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who said that Japan is ready to render
financial assistance to Mongolia within the framework of the International Monetary Fund's program on economic and financial reform.

"The total financial package of the IMF's 'Extended Fund Facility' program is USD 5.5 billion. And a large sum of the finance would be made up of the financial assistance of USD 850 million proposed by Japan during the Parliament Speaker's visit to Japan. According to corresponding legislations of Mongolia, this assistance would be considered as a soft loan with an interest rate of less than 1 percent and over 20 years of period. The exact amount of the soft loan will be decided by a joint working group of Mongolia and Japan and the Japanese working group may soon arrive in Mongolia" said State Secretary of Minister of Finance of Mongolia B.Nyamaa said in his interview for parliament.mn.

He continued "As mentioned, the soft loan will be directed at a program to revive the economy in the scope of the IMF's program. This loan is important in meeting the expected results of the IMF program. Currently, the Mongolian government plans to use the loan for funding budget deficit and to prevent possible debt burden in the future".

Some positive economic impacts are expected as a result of the program, including 6-8 percent of stable economic growth, foreign currency reserve to reach USD 4 billion and average inflation rate to be at around 6 percent. Furthermore, macroeconomic stabilizations will be stabilized, enabling long-term growth and removal of unsteady macroeconomic conditions.

"Certainly, investors were concerned about Mongolia's currency reserve and sustainable economic growths. Therefore, the loan is important in clearing these doubts. Also, the financial assistance is not entitled to certain projects and the Japanese government will render the assistance for funding the economic transition" noted State Secretary of Finance Minister B.Nyamaa. 

It is anticipated that the Mongolian and Japanese sides will discuss this issue further, after the Extended Fund Facility program is approved by the IMF Board. 

Source: www.parliament.mn

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Politics & Legal

Mongolians protest over alleged theft of government funds

By Ganbat Namjilsangarav

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia, March 31 (AP) — Hundreds of Mongolians protested in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, on Friday over the alleged theft of government funds deposited in offshore accounts.

Opposition politicians and activists demanded the return of what some said is $17 billion in funds plundered by ruling party politicians and their influential friends.

They also called on the country's parliament to launch a special investigation of offshore accounts and pass a law prohibiting public officials, politicians and their family members from holding such accounts.

Uyanga Gantomor, chairwoman of a minor opposition party, said there was money sitting in offshore accounts that had been stolen from Mongolians.

"These thieves stole from schools, kindergartens and from your children and from the happiness of your families," she told the crowd in Ulaanbaatar's central square. "If they bring their stolen money back to Mongolia, then we can forgive them."

Former President Enkhbayar Nambar, who has served time in prison for corruption, addressed the crowd of about 1,500 to 2,000 people. "Not everyone is perfect; I went wrong once," he said. "For that, I have asked forgiveness. How about others ask for forgiveness also! Let's bring the money hidden in offshore accounts and distribute it to the people," he said to loud cheers.

Mongolia is in the midst of an economic crisis caused partly by a decline in prices for mineral exports.

More than 30 percent of the 3 million people in the landlocked country live in poverty, and many are angry over an austerity plan that has hit the poor hardest.

One of the protest organizers, Batchuluun San, head of the People's Emergency Council, a private group that focuses on graft, said the protest was in response to the "Panama Papers" scandal last year in which thousands of pages of documents related to offshore accounts were leaked, including accounts of members of the Mongolian political and business elite.

"Today we have individuals in Mongolia who are richer than the state," said Batchuluun. "We want the government to investigate politicians with offshore accounts based on these documents."

Gansukh Khaltar, an independent economist, said Mongolia needs a law that regulates offshore accounts held by officials, but questioned the $17 billion figure used by protesters.

"How did several rich and influential people manage to steal $17 billion in the last 27 years as the protesters claim? Why would foreign mining companies give this huge amount of bribes to Mongolian politicians?" he said.

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Related:

Mongolians demonstrate against offshore accounts – news.mn, March 31

Protesters demand Offshore-Account-Holders to step downMontsame, March 31

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MP Ts. Nyamdorj casts further doubt over S. Zorig murder trial

Ulaanbaatar, March 31 (MONTSAME) Today, MP Ts.Nyamdorj made a statement that guiltless persons were going to be intentionally charged for the criminal case of assassination of ex MP and one of the leaders of Democratic movement S.Zorig. Three persons were sentenced for imprisonment of 24-25 years.

MP Ts.Nyamdorj underlined that he was presenting some documents and expressing his viewpoint, regarding the case in order to make the victims whose rights to be defended has been violated, to be heard to public, and as the state of the criminal case was complicated, causing many suspicions among people and touching serious issues regarding to actions of law enforcement and judiciary institutes and human rights. The documents he presented were explained, as relevant prior to the accused T.Chimgee and Sodnomdarjaa had been arrested.

Mr Nyamdorj "Why the criminal trial was held behind closed door and why state prosecutor made statement on TV regarding the case. The main point of the case is the one who had ordered this case. But this person has not been revealed. I very much concern about the case revealing methodology. The only witness, who was at the crime scene (Zorig's wife Bulgan was at home when Zorig was murdered there) was not taken to stand trial, considering her neither a victim nor a witness, after having arrested her for a whole year.

MP Ts.Nyamdorj said the criminal case has not yet been revealed for long time because traces and imprints were washed out  as many people went in and out the crime scene. 

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Will 2017 meet Mongolia's mega hopes from mega projects?

March 31 (gogo.mn) In late 2016, the price of coking coal surged, the oil industry outlook brightened, and there were positive signs in other commodity markets also. As producers and exporters celebrate the return of good times, however temporary these might turn out to be, Mongolians have another reason to feel optimistic about 2017, when work on several mega projects, including Tavan Tolgoi and Gatsuurt, is slated to begin, after years of false hopes, dashed expectations, and broken promises. Let us see how things stand with some of these projects that will change Mongolia's economy and Mongolians' life in many ways. 

GATSUURT

Ts.Dashdorj, the present Mining Minister, is the fourth in a series to try to bring the Gatsuurt deposit into the economic cycle. D.Zorigt initiated the talks with the investors on developing the deposit, but the tenure of D.Gankhuyag was marked by growing opposition to the project. R.Jigjid soothed popular feelings and took some real steps towards operating the mine by getting the mineral law amended to allow the state to forgo its 34% ownership infavour of receiving 3% special royalties. Draft investment and deposit development agreements were prepared but things then slowed down as elections drew near. How quickly will the current government be able to fulfil expectations, and boost morale in the mining sector?  

Progress might not be easy. The NGO Save Noyon Mountain moved court and in May 2016, the extractionlicence of Gatsuurt mine, issued to Centerra Gold by the MRAM, was suspended. The company appealed against the ruling to The Capital City Administrative Court, which refused on 9 February to hear the case, sending it back to the primary court.

On the other hand, there have been two positive developments in recent days. In one, the Ministry has set up a working group charged with preparing the deposit development and investment agreements with Centerra Gold. This replaces the working group formed in 2015, which became defunct with the coming of the present government. In the other, the Mineral Resources Professional Council earlier this month approved a revised feasibility study of the Gatsuurt deposit. 

The Gatsuurt mine holds 50tonnes of gold in about 17 million tonnes of ore. There could well be 26 tonnes more of precious metal and the mine lifetime would be around 10 years. The project would need a total investment of $215.9 million, while operational costs would be $1026 million. Estimated sales revenue would be $1769 million and the state budget would get $432.3 million in tax and other payments. It will have around 1000 workers. 

OYU TOLGOI

The Oyu Tolgoi expansion project will be the strongest pillar of the Mongolian economy in 2017. Turquoise Hill Resources, which owns 66 percent of the mining project, has said this year's capital expenditure in the open pit mine and the underground mine would be $100 million and between $825 million and $925 million respectively. 

In December 2015, Rio Tinto raised $4.4 billion from 15 commercial banks with government support. The banks are ready to lend up to  $6 billion and might be willing to give $1.6 billion more. Whether Rio Tinto takes these further loans or not will depend on what the market situation does for Oyu Tolgoi's own financial capacity. 

The underground mine is the heart of the project where 80 percent of Oyu Tolgoi's total reserve lies. Sales would start in 2021 and full capacityof  production would come in 2027. 

TAVAN TOLGOI

How all efforts to operate the Tavan Tolgoi deposit in a big way have failed ever since S.Bayar's government took it under state ownership in 2008 is a story well-known. The latest round was flagged off last October by J.Erdenebat's government, which gives the impression of being really serious about the job. 

There are many obstacles on its path, even though the time is propitious with coking coal prices rising. The rise followed the Chinese government's sudden decision in mid-2016 to reduce the number of working days in domestic coal mines from 330 to 276. However, the government had second thoughts as prices kept going up, and it soon began to re-extend the operating days. The result has been that some market experts are taking coking coal price trends as not being reliable. However, even if there is no spectacular recovery as in 2008 and 2011, coking coal prices will remain reasonably high, and not hit the bottom anytime soon.

That makes it all the more important to raise production at Tavan Tolgoi. A working group was set up in the Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry late last year to resume discussions with the "old acquaintance" consortium, which consists of Energy Resources, Sumitomo, and Shenhua. Maybe this time will be lucky, and Tavan Tolgoi would be freed of the jinx. Much, of course, depends on how prices move. All parties would lose interest if the expected commercial returns are not high enough. In any case, so much has to be done – finalizing the investment process, completing studies, developing infrastructure etc. – that expecting any spectacular benefit from Tavan Tolgoi this year could be unwise. 

THE TAVAN TOLGOI POWER PLANT AND CHP-5

The investment agreement for the Tavan Tolgoi 450-MW coal power plant was signed in June 2016, with MCS Power as the domestic and Marubeni as the foreign investor. Little has progressed since, except for successful negotiations with Oyu Tolgoi LLC to buy 70% of the generated power. The rest would be usedat the Tavan Tolgoi and Tsagaansuvarga projects. We can only hope that work on the power plant will move forward this year but it seems several details are still to be worked out to the satisfaction of all the parties involved. 

Failure to progress in building the Combined Heat and Power Plant – 5 has been attributed to lack of finance, the market situation, and political disagreements. Several other coal power plant projects have also been on the drawing board for long. The government should take a quick decision on which of these it would take up first. 

The proposed projects include the Baganuur power plant, Bodi Group's Buuruljuut coal power plant, and the Shivee Ovoo power station. Buuruljuut will be built by the private sector, but Baganuur, Tavan Tolgoi, and CHP-5 are government projects. However, only the Tavan Tolgoi power plant is mentioned for development in the government's Economic Recovery Programme (2016-2020), while the others are just said to be under study. Prime Minister Erdenebat should be knowing the need to start work on at least some of these, as a power-hungry China would welcome long-term agreements on buying electricity from Mongolia.

The only good news is that work has finally begun onexpansion of CHP-3. That would alleviate to a certain extent the country's shortage of energy and heat. 

THE RAILWAY AND OTHER PROJECTS

Last December, the government announced a list of energy, road and transport projects to be implemented in 2017.  Among them are the 45.3-km railway from Nariinsukhait to Shiveekhuren, the 281-km railway from Zuunbayan toKhangi port, the 192-km railway from Choibalsan to Khuut mine, and the 234-km railway from Khuut mine to Bichigt port. Later, Road and Transport Minister D.Ganbat expressed his hope that work on the Nariinsukhait-Shiveekhuren segment would start in the spring. When completed, SouthGobi Sands, Mongolyn Alt, and Usukh Zoos can then use the railway to transport their coal. The 45-km heavy and paved road now used has a capacity of just 11 million tonnes per year while these companies can together produce over 30 million tonnes. However, construction is likely to be delayed beyond the planned one year, as many related issues are still to be sorted out. 

The Zuunbayan-Khangi track is likely to have a wide gauge, according to the draft resolution on ensuring implementation of the state policy on railway transportation submitted by the government to the Parliament. Rough estimates put the total cost of construction at $1 billion. Mainly iron ore would be transported through the railway. 

It is unlikely that this would see the Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry make any real progress on  'ambitious' projects such as the oil refinery, the copper smelter, and the steel plant, besides conducting some preliminary studies. Actual construction could begin only after the money is found and in the present situation, this might take quite some time. 

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AmCham Daily Newswire for March 31, 2017

GOVERNMENT

Mid-term strategic partnership agreement signed with Japan

Summary: The Speaker of Parliament signed a mid-term strategic partnership agreement with Japan, outlining the goals and guidelines of economic partnership between the two countries for the next five years. The agreement outlines cooperation in trade, economic partnership, political ties, investment, defense, security, culture, and many other areas. The two sides agreed to pay special attention to mutually beneficial economic and trade partnership.

Keywords: Japan, Speaker of Parliament | The Century News /page 2/


Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi's debts to Chalco repaid 

Summary: Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi (ETT) signed a sales agreement with Chalco in 2011 to receive a 350 million USD advance payments for the supply of coal. Last Thursday, the remaining 110 million USD of the company's debt to Chalco was paid. A debt of 64 million USD owed to TTJV Co. was also fully repaid. Revenue from the East Tsankhii mine will now go to the state. In the agreement made with Chalco, following the debt's repayment, 80% of coal from the East Tsankhii mine is to be supplied to Chalco. The management of ETT has sent a request to change the amount allotted.

Executive Director of ETT D. Ariunbold stated, "The day that the debt is repaid to Chalco is a celebratory day for the Government of Mongolia, the company's stockholders, and every Mongolian citizen." D. Ariunbold noted that a Mongolian company won the bid to utilize the West Tsankhii mine, and the mining license fee of 200 billion MNT is to stay in the Mongolian economy.

The company mined 2.8 million tons of coal in the first quarter of 2017 and exported 2.1 million tons. According to calculations, around 9 million tons of coal will be mined and the sale of 560 million USD is to expected to take place this year. The Prime Minister received the management of ETT and congratulated them for paying off their debts. The PM recommended that the management create the opportunity to give dividends to citizens holding ETT stock.

Keywords: Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi, Prime Minister, stocks | The Official Gazette /page 2/


ONLINE STORY

Moody's sets Mongolia's long-term credit rating at CAA1

Summary: Moody's Investors Service is maintaining Mongolia's long-term credit rating at CAA1.  Starting on February 15, Moody's researched the possibility of lowering Mongolia's credit rating, but has decided against a change. Moody's highlights that the expectation that Mongolia will enroll in the IMF's extended fund facility program and receive financial assistance from international organizations affected their decision to not alter the credit rating. Moody's warned that the budget deficit is still expected to be high, which could result in a rise in liquidity pressure in the next 12-18 months. The only positive short-term factor impacting the Mongolian economy is the IMF's EFF program. Moody's highlighted that in the medium and long term, an increase in FDI and the acceleration of the mining sector is crucial for the economy.

Keywords: Moody's, credit ratings | www.bloombergtv.mn


The USD exchange rate falls for 5 consecutive days

Summary: The USD exchange rate fell for 5 consecutive days, reaching 2,452.44 MNT. The exchange rate of USD against the MNT decreased by 0.77% this month, and on Thursday, the central bank bought 9.9 million USD in spot trading through a currency auction from commercial banks. The exchange rate of CNY against MNT decreased 0.9% this month, reaching 355.8 MNT. Commercial banks asked to buy 19 million CNY and sell 1 million CNY during the currency auction, but the Bank of Mongolia declined the request.

Keywords: USD, exchange rate, currency | www.bloombergtv.mn

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Business

EBRD highlights opportunities in Mongolia's dairy sector

Conference in Ulaanbaatar attracts strong interest from investors

March 31 (EBRD) As part of its drive to strengthen the country's agribusiness sector, the EBRD – with support from the European Union – has organised a conference entitled "Future Opportunities in Mongolia's Dairy Sector" in Ulaanbaatar on Thursday, 30 March 2017. The event was opened by Matthieu Le Blan, EBRD Head of Mongolia, and attended by over 100 private companies and public stakeholders.

The conference provided a platform for discussion among milk producers, processing companies, public organisations, professional associations, international agencies and training institutions. It offered an opportunity to exchange experiences and lessons learned about best practice in dairy farming.

Participants addressed the most pressing issues in the sector. The event included top dairy producers who are also EBRD clients such as Suu, APU and Vitafit. Representatives of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry noted that the private sector's input will be very valuable for future policy considerations.

The EBRD shared findings and recommendations from its advisory project "Improving productivity of dairy farmers". The project assessed the technical and market capacity of 13 local farms in 2015, and dairy development company The Friesian Agro Consultancy BV (Netherlands) held practical training for over 40 participants from 18 farms in 2016. In addition, three pilot farms implemented innovative software for herd management.  

"Dairy production is a key sector for the Mongolian economy and the country could become self-sufficient in milk and other dairy products. As our longstanding engagement shows, there are a number of processing companies that are keen to develop dairy value chains," said Victoria Zinchuk, Head of Agribusiness Advisory, EBRD. "As a Bank we have already supported a number of companies and are well placed to assist dairy processing both with financing and advisory support", she noted.

The conference will be followed by further practical on-farm training later this year, covering topics such as production of quality winter forage, animal nutrition, health, treatment of young stocks, as well as soil analysis and identification of appropriate types of animal feed plants.

The EBRD has been supporting the Mongolian agribusiness sector since 2007, including almost all major dairy producers and processors in the country, with investments amounting to €60 million. The EBRD has also provided advisory services to private sector dairy companies to support them in sourcing higher quality milk in appreciable volumes.

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Austrade: Austmine Mongolia Mission 2017, April 2-7

The 2017 Austmine led mission provides a comprehensive program. This program is being developed in conjunction with Austrade Mongolia. Austrade's role is to provide support on the ground and ensure delegates receive the best market insights and connections. This includes understanding the market, the regulatory environment, case studies from experienced business leaders, presentations from Oyu Tolgoi's procurement team as well as their lead EPC contractor.

There is also opportunity to participate in the annual International Mining exhibition and meet potential local partners.

For detailed information about this event please refer to the event brochure (pdf).

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'Transit Mongolia' forum to be held in Beijing

March 31 (news.mn) The 'Transit Mongolia-2017' road and transportation forum will take place in Beijing on 7thof April. The forum is being organised by the Ministry of Road and Transport of Mongolia in cooperation with Ulaanbaatar Railways JVC.  

Mongolia, which has a long border with China and offers important road and rail links to Russia and beyond, is set to become an important  transportation "bridge" between Asia and Europe. Freight  between China and Russia as well as China and Europe passing through Mongolia is set to rise as the route is considered by many as the most economically efficient route.

China aims to increase the volume of trade with Europe to USD 1 trillion by 2020 and to Russia to USD 200 billion. In this connection, China needs to secure faster trade routes.  Container shipments travelling by sea are two to three times slower than by rail. China is, therefore focusing on developing rail and road transit between to and from Europe.

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Jeju firms bag US$3 mln in contracts for local goods shipments abroad

JEJU, March 31 (Yonhap) -- The Jeju provincial government said Friday it sent trade delegations to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mongolia last week to sign deals for exports of local products worth several million U.S. dollars.

Scores of companies based in the southern resort island of Jeju joined the delegations that visited the Asian economies between March 19 and 25, the Jeju government said in a press release.

The amount of contracts signed surpassed the US$3.05 million.

Jeju Wooda has signed a contract for exports of facial mask packs worth $120,000 and $12,000 to Taiwan and Mongolia each. The packs were made of various herbs, horse milk, pine mushroom and other ingredients indigenous to the island.

Dutch coffee producer WithO, meanwhile, signed a $50,000 contract for shipments of coffee made with Samdasoo, volcanic bedrock water produced and bottled by the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Development Corporation, and organic Ethiopian coffee beans to Mongolia.

"We've organized the trade delegations to help local companies make inroads into Asia and Europe as they are currently suffering from trade retaliations from China," a Jeju government official said, referring to Beijing's economic sanctions over Seoul's deployment of a U.S. missile defense system on its soil.

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Ulaanbaatar

Temperature will reach 16C today in UB

April 3 (GoGo Mongolia) Storm and winds are expected in most regions in coming days. 

Mostly cloudy in Western aimags. Precipitation is expected in northern parts of Western aimags and Khuvsgul mountians. 

Changeable clouds at other regions. No precipitation. Winds from SW will reach 7-12 m/s and it will reach 14-16 m/s in some parts of Western and Central aimags. 

Temperature will be 1C to 6C in Khuren belchir, 0C to 5C Uvs lake, Darkhad hollow, Ider, Tes river basin, 9C to 14C in Altai, Khangai, Khuvsgul mountainous areas, 16C to 21C in Gobi aimags and 13C to 18C in other regions. 

ULAANBAATAR CITY: Mostly cloudy. No precipitation. Winds from SW will reach 7-12 m/s with mild dust storm. Temperature will be 16C to 18C today. 

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Mongolian capital to ban low-grade coal to ease smog

March 31 (Reuters) Mongolia will ban the burning of low-grade coal in its capital Ulaanbaatar within the next decade, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism said, as the country tries to curb toxic air pollution.

Ulaanbaatar is one of the world's most polluted cities and also one of the coldest, and poor residents are forced to burn wood, coal and sometimes even trash as temperatures plunge below minus 40 Celsius (minus 40 Fahrenheit) in winter.

Poor "ger" districts, a sprawl of traditional tents that have sprung up on the edge of the city, account for about 80 percent of Ulaanbaatar's winter smog, which has sparked protests from residents.

The country's parliament has already approved a plan that will outlaw coal burning in the central business district next year, Lkhagvasuren Gunbileg, a senior officer at the National Committee on Reducing Air Pollution, told Reuters.

The ban will be implemented "systematically step-by-step" from 2018, she said, and will later be extended into the ger districts housing many former herders who have migrated to the city.

In these areas, harmful breathable particles known as PM2.5 can reach levels well above 1,000 micrograms per cubic meter during the winter, 40 times the maximum recommended by the World Health Organization.

Ulaanbaatar has previously focused on rehousing ger district residents into apartments with access to the heating grid. The government now plans to connect existing homes to city utilities and provide alternative heating methods, Gunbileg said.

"There will be a technical expo held to demonstrate to the masses what kind of technology is available and options for heating to choose from instead of coal," she said.

Homes with wood burning stoves will be allowed to burn "enhanced coal" that emits less smoke and ash, and the state plans to subsidize electric heating units. Ten factories currently produce these enhanced coal briquettes for homes in Ulaanbaatar, but production lags demand.

Coal, one of Mongolia's major export commodities, is a primary cause of the pollution, producing huge amounts of particulate matter as well as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, hazardous components of smog and acid rain.

China's capital Beijing is also slashing coal use, while surrounding Hebei province plans to ban direct coal combustion in nine counties in 2017, with residents set to switch to electricity, natural gas or biomass.

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Diplomacy

Speaker M.Enkhbold addresses 136th IPU Assembly in Dhaka

April 3 (UB Post) Speaker of Parliament M.Enkhbold is participating in the 136th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which is being held in Dhaka, Bangladesh, from April 1 to 5.

Speaker M.Enkhbold chaired the assembly's Asia-Pacific group meeting, which reviewed amendments to the group's constitution; adoption of the group's protocols agreed upon during the 135th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, held in Geneva, Switzerland; and candidate selection for the boards of a young parliamentarians forum, bureau of women parliamentarians, committee on Middle East questions, and committee on the human rights.

Speaker M.Enkhbold told the meeting's attendees that the theme of the assembly, "Readdressing Inequalities: Delivering on dignity and well-being for all", will be of great importance to implementing the objectives of the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and reducing inequality around the world.

During the assembly, Speaker M.Enkhbold met with current President of the IPU and Member of Bangladesh's Parliament Saber Hossain Chowdhury to discuss cooperation between Mongolia and the IPU. The Speaker asked Chowdhury to help officials from Mongolia's Parliament Secretariat participate in training, seminars, and other activities hosted by the IPU.

Chowdhury noted that Mongolian delegates have been actively participating in the IPU's activities, and that it is possible for Mongolian Parliament Secretariat officials to attend the IPU's training. He underlined that there should be a greater focus on improving collaboration between parliaments to deal with the issues facing the world.

The President of the IPU asked Speaker M.Enkhbold to select one of his delegates to serve as the Mongolian delegate at the meeting of the IPU Committee on the Human Rights.

The Speaker nominated MP D.Lundeejantsan to participate in the meeting. While in Dhaka, Speaker M.Enkhbold also attended a meeting for heads of geopolitical groups and chairmen of standing committees.

The meeting's attendees discussed enhancing the participation of women and youth in parliament, the implementation of resolutions and decrees issued by the IPU, and crucial issues concerning the human rights, conflict, and migration concerns facing Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and Cambodia.

Speaker M.Enkhbold spoke during the meeting and highlighted that there should be a focus on increasing the participation of young parliamentarians in the IPU, because parliamentarians under the age of 45 make up nearly ten percent of the IPU's membership.

The meeting's attendees noted that parliaments of IPU member states have the responsibility to present the IPU with their annual reports, but over 70 percent of them fail to submit them. Speaker M.Enkhbold proposed that each region appoint a representative in charge of report presentation for a better outcome. The meeting's attendees supported the Speaker's proposal.

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Mongolia and Bangladesh agree to establish its parliamentary groups

by Press and Public Relations Department at State Great Khural

April 3 (GoGo Mongolia) Chairman of the State Great Hural (Parliament) of Mongolia Mr. Miyegombo ENKHBOLD, who is attending the 136th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Dhaka, has met the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) President Mr. Saber Chowdhury today on April 1, 2017.

At the beginning of the meeting, Chairman M.Enkhbold congratulated Mr. Chowdhury on successfully hosting the Assembly and noted that Mongolia has been actively participating in measures organized by the IPU since becoming a member of the organization. Mongolia joined the IPU in 1962 and since the establishment of permanent functioning parliament of Mongolia in 1992, the bilateral collaboration and relationship achieved new levels.

"We are satisfied the Assembly is meeting under the theme of 'Redressing inequalities: Delivering on dignity and well-being for all'. Mongolian parliament ratified its 'Sustainable Development Vision until 2030' and we will be working hard as previously in order to achieve the objectives. As of Mongolian parliament is chairing the IPU Asia-Pacific group, the Secretariat of the Parliament of Mongolia will be also assuming the IPU Secretariat and therefore, we would like to bring your attention to involve our Secretariat staff in relevant programs and training organized by the IPU", added Mr.Enkhbold.

The IPU President S.Chowdhury affirmed that Mongolian parliament has been actively participating in the IPU activities and further noted national parliaments of the states should closer collaborate than ever before. The IPU provides with opportunities to involve Secretariat officers in training and practicing, in this scope, Mongolian officers are able to take part in.

Concluding the meeting, the sides expressed its readiness to establish Mongolia-Bangladesh parliamentary groups in both parliaments in order to broaden bilateral relations and cooperation.

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Mongolian Foreign Minister to visit Vietnam on April 2-4

March 31 (news.mn) Mongolian Foreign Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil will visit to the Vietnam on 2nd-4th of April at the invitation of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Vietnam Pham Binh Minh.

Within the framework of the visit, the Foreign Minister of Mongolia will pay a courtesy call on the Prime Minister of Vietnam, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, hold official talks with his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh and conduct meetings with the Ministers of Agriculture and Rural Development and Industry and Trade of Vietnam.

During the visit, Foreign Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil is going to exchange views on issues concerning bilateral ties between Mongolia and Vietnam, such as the strengthening of traditional and friendly relations, increasing the frequency of high level visits, expanding international and regional cooperation in the fields of trade, economy, science, technology and culture.

The partnership between Mongolia and Vietnam has been steadily growing in all spheres since the establishment of diplomatic relations of Mongolia and Vietnam in 1954. The two countries' trade turnover reached USD 42.8 million in 2016.

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Foreign Minister Ts.Munkh-Orgil to visit VietnamMontsame, March 31

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DeFacto Interview: John Langtry, Australian Ambassador to Mongolia

March 31 (Jargal Defacto) --

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Chinese Embassy donates Kanjur and Tanjur scriptures

Ulaanbaatar, March 31 (MONTSAME) The scholars, faculties and students at National University of Mongolia can now study Kanjur and Tanjur, two of the most famous Buddhist writings and scriptures in Mongolian language.

The Embassy of the People's Republic of China donated full volume Kanjur and Tanjur manuscripts to the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the National University of Mongolia, and a ceremony was held on March 30, Thursday at the first building of the university.

"National University of Mongolia is truly grateful to the Embassy of China for its priceless contribution to the education sector of Mongolia", said Ya.Tumurbaatar, Interim President of the university during his opening speech at the ceremony, extending his personal gratitude for the new edition as well.

Considered a valuable Buddhist heritage, the 108-volume Kanjur and 225-volume Tanjur have been translated into Mongolian by Chinese scholars for more than 20 years.

Chinese Ambassador to Mongolia Xing Haiming was also present at the ceremony, and remarked, "National University of Mongolia is a neighbor to the Embassy of China. We are confident that the donated books will advance study on religion, art and culture by the students and faculties of the National University of Mongolia".

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Mongolian Ambassador to Russia visits Plekhanov Russian University of Economics

Ulaanbaatar, March 31 (MONTSAME) B.Delgermaa, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the Russian Federation visits Plekhanov Russian University of Economics on March 27.

Ambassador B.Delgermaa received Rector Viktor I.Grishin, Director of International Office Dmitry A.Shtykhno and the First Vice-Rector Leonid A.Bragin of Plekhanov Russian University of Economics. 

During the visit, Ambassador B.Delgermaa congratulated the staff of the university on the 110th anniversary of Plekhanov Russian University of Economics and congratulated Prof. Viktor I. Grishin Doctor of Science (Economics) who was awarded Mongolian Order of Polar Star.

Later displaying introductory video about Mongolia, Ambassador B.Delgermaa gave presentation on "Mongolian Economic Development Gateway". Rector of Plekhanov Russian University of Economics Viktor I. Grishin expressed his gratitude towards Ambassador B.Delgermaa for her visit and presentation about Mongolia, especially on trade and economic cooperation.

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Mongolian Tourism Sector Sharing Experiences with Cuba

Ulaanbaatar, Mar 31 (Prensa Latina) D. Oyunkhorol, Minister of Environment and Tourism of Mongolia, welcomed here Cuban Ambassador in this country Raul Delgado to share experiences and discuss challenges in this field.

Delgado updated Oyunkhorol on the tourist development in Cuba and the challenges in this field, considered the main boost of economy in the country given the steady growth of tourist visits.

Oyunkhorol showed interest in the training of the staff working in tourism, particularly those people trained by the Faculty of Tourism of the University of Havana.

Delgado seized the meeting to invite Oyunkhorol to the International Fair of Tourism Cuba 2017, to be held this year in Holguin with Germany as guest country.

According to the diplomatic source, the participation of Mongolian authorities from the tourist sector would define opportunities for cooperation with the Cuban side.

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Mongolia to cooperate with Cuba in tourism industryMontsame, March 31

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Health & Education

Renowned Indian doctors to visit Ulaanbaatar to share practices

Ulaanbaatar, March 31 (MONTSAME) A delegation from Fortis Healthcare, a network of super-specialty hospitals in India, comprising of Medical and Administrative teams is visiting Ulaanbaatar for exploring the opportunities to be a part of the growing healthcare industry of the country. Their visit is expected to take place on April 5-7.

The delegation plans to conduct a CME (Continuing Medical Education) for doctors and staff at First Central Hospital and Intermed Hospital of Ulaanbaatar and shall offer Free of Cost OPD as well to assist their Mongolian counterparts in assessing and treating patients with liver diseases, blood disorders and cancer ailments.

The delegation comprises of Dr. Vivek Vij, Director of Liver Transplant and GI surgery Department, and Dr. Rahul Bhargava, Director – Clinical Haematology and Bone Marrow Transplant Department.

Dr. Vivek Vij is a known to name to more than 50 liver transplant Mongolian patients. He is a renowned Indian surgeon, known for his expertise in liver transplantation and hepatobiliary Sciences. He and his team have a cumulative experience of more than 2500 liver transplants with a record of 95% patients and 100% donor success rate. Dr. Vij is the first surgeon from Indian subcontinent to publish a series of laparoscopic donor Hepatectomy in 'Liver Transplantation'. In 2015, he was honored with a special award at International Liver Transplant Society (ILTS), in Chicago. He is the youngest liver transplant surgeon to complete 500 independent liver transplants with Lowest Biliary Complication Rate. He also runs a Fellowship program for training young surgeons and paramedical staff at Fortis.

Dr. Vij has more than 50 national and international publications and presentations on 'Liver surgery and transplantation' to his credit, along with noteworthy contributions for scope of improvement in this field. His work has been published in top indexed journal for transplantation (American Journal of Transplantation, Liver Transplantation). His area of research primarily involves living donor transplants and medical management of patients with liver diseases.

Dr. Rahul Bhargava is known for excellent patient outcomes and this has earned him the reputation of being among the best of his generation in this field of specialisation. The Haematology department has its own transplantation unit and extensive laboratory facilities, providing cutting-edge clinical skills and the latest in technology at affordable costs for transplantation and other Haematological services. Till date, Dr. Bhargava has performed close to 200 adult bone marrow transplants, a record-breaking number in north India.

About Fortis

Fortis Hospital Group is the largest healthcare provider in Asia, having multi-specialty hospitals as well as super-specialty centers across India, providing comprehensive tertiary and quaternary healthcare to patients across various specialties with latest technology, multi-disciplinary capability, state of the art facilities, world class infrastructure and excellent patient care ambience and processes, Fortis Group has expanded to become a network of 10,000 bed capacity across 54 Hospitals, over 260 diagnostic centers and a talent pool of over 23000 people. We touch, enrich and transform the lives of over 3100 patients everyday with the expertise of 10,000 finest medical minds in the country.

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Mongolian script promoted in Sukhbaatar aimag

Ulaanbaatar, March 31 (MONTSAME) A consolidated consultative meeting on Mongolian script was held in Sukhbaatar aimag for the first time. The Governor's office of the aimag and "Humun bichig" (Human script) newspaper, operated by MONTSAME national news agency organized the event, involving over 100 people, including all governors of soum, chairmen of citizens representative khurals, directors of schools, kindergarten, cultural centers, teachers of Mongol script and students.

" – We are very pleased that the government pays special attention to promote national script and improve its usage in countryside, resolving the financial issues to organize this meeting. The greatest importance of the event is that it puts big investment to local people. It is not always possible to involve good number of people from one province, when this kind of meeting is organized in Ulaanbaatar. Therefore we planned to give as much information and knowledge as possible, including law on Mongolian language and script" said Editor-in-Chief of "Humun bichig" newspaper B.Elbegzaya.

Honorary teacher of Mongolia Sh.Chuluunbor expressed his view that organizing such event is an evident of Sukhbaatar aimag's efforts to spread the use of Mongolian traditional script and the province's achievement of great success in it. "- We should consider improving teaching methodology of Mongolian script. Today, it is not efficient to use old teaching methods the same way we used to, as learning environment and education facilities have been extensively changed. Therefore, arranging teaching method to meet today's modern demands is crucial" said senior professor Sh.Chuluunbor

Department of Education, culture and art of Sukhbaatar aimag has taken many measures to promote, and spread national script and the proficiency of teachers and students has improved year by year, noted officials. A student of the school number 1 of Sukhbaatar aimag gained the first place in the Mongolian best calligraphers' competition in 2017 and teachers and students of the school also won in a Mongol script Olympiad of the eastern region.

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Culture & Society

Marc Tasse: Mongolia has huge potential to be a world player

March 31 (The Mongol Messenger) "Mongolian culture essentially falls back to its traditional nomadic civilization. I think, one of the best things about Mongolia is that it hasn't disappeared. That would be the biggest loss if Mongolia loses its tie to the countryside and the steppe", says Canadian national Marc Tasse, 51, who shares his relationship with and feelings about Mongolia in this interview. He is currently working as Resident Director of American Center for Mongolian Studies (ACMS) and Secretary-General for Project Management Institute (PMI) Chapter Mongolia.

Roughly 4 years ago, he was offered a six-month contract to do business assessment at the ACMS Mongolia Office after which he stayed to actually deliver his recommendations. Marc has lived in Mongolia since March, 2013, and has no plan of leaving the country in the near future.

A perfect welcome ceremony

Marc says he knew very little about Mongolia when he was approached about it 4 years ago. So he asked for a week to learn about Mongolia and make his mind. "It just so happens that around that time, I was introduced to Anne Biolik, former Canadian Ambassador to Mongolia at a lunch meeting.  She was very enthusiastic about the potential and growth in Mongolia. So I accepted the position", he said. "I also did some research and part of me was expecting Mongolia to be very similar to other Asian nations where I worked in the past. But I quickly learned that Mongolia is very unique", he said. He has lived and worked in Asian nations like the Republic of Korea, Thailand, Japan and China.

And today, his relations with Mongolia keep getting stronger as he gets more involved in local organizations and projects. "Part of me is invested in seeing Mongolia's growth and success. I am focusing on capacity building, working with Mongolians and Mongolian companies to make them more independent and self-sustainable and less dependent on foreign help", he said.

"I think there's a huge potential for Mongolia to be a world player. There's just a little bit of time they need to build on that capacity", Marc shares his positive expectations for Mongolia. 

When asked to recall his first day in Mongolia, he answers, "I landed in Mongolia in a slightly cold afternoon. The new airport highway or Hunnu Mall hadn't been constructed then. After 15-20 minutes down the old road from the airport, the traffic was stopped, and a herd of horse just ran across the highway. It was probably a hundred horses. Looking at that scene and since I like to ride horses, I thought, 'I am going to like this place'. The bright blue sky, the white mountains and someone driving hundreds of horses across the highway; it was a perfect introduction to what Mongolia was going to become".

Increasing visibility and accessibility

As Marc is heading an organization that focuses on Mongolian studies, our discussion proceeded with the study of Mongolia and ACMS which is a part of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, and supports academic research and academic research projects about Mongolia.

"A lot of what've done, especially in the last 4-5 years has been really promoting an  awareness of Mongolia as a good place to conduct research, and that there's a lot of opportunities for learning and sharing. I think, that is one of the big things that is increasing the visibility of Mongolia in places like Berkeley where a Mongolian studies department has been running for the last two years. We've been attracting a lot of interest in Mongolian studies at the Pennsylvania University. We also have a group that comes to Mongolia yearly from Western Washington University with whom we have a library development program. We work with these types of projects a lot. Indiana University is the strongest classical Mongolian studies institution in the US, and they are still going very strong".

"Harvard University has always had classic Mongolian studies, but recently they've started focusing on their Mongolia Health Initiative through which Harvard researchers come and conduct researches in Mongolia in a field office based in Ulaanbaatar. On the other hand, there is interest in establishing an Institute of Mongolian Studies at the Harvard, the process is in the initiation stages", he shared. 

According to Marc, there are many new universities and institutions that the ACMS is working with on researches in and about Mongolia.

"The other thing we've been working on is partnerships between Mongolian researchers and foreign researchers. We are working on helping Mongolian researchers structure and submit articles for publication, do joint publications and ask for joint publication rights, so that Mongolian researchers get recognition for their work. We also help them apply for presentations for different congresses and conferences around the world, so that people start seeing Mongolians as the experts of what's happening here within the country".

Marc assesses that there's an increasing interest in doing research in Mongolia. "We are seeing more applicants for our grants and programs where people want to come to Mongolia to do research on wide variety of different subjects because Mongolia is becoming more visible and accessible. Moreover, it is becoming easier for researchers to be able to conduct research. The environment for young researchers to conduct is much more positive, open and easier now", he explains.

Why inquire into Mongolia?

"I think, Mongolia is an excellent study material for multiple reasons", Marc states.

"One of the main advantages for researchers is that Mongolia is isolated. In Mongolia, researchers can get very good results for empirical research. Mongolia is very interesting because you can easily isolate the variables within your research". 

"Secondly, it is the pace of change in Mongolia. Things change and develop very quickly in Mongolia compared to other places because it's a small, isolated population. Researchers can come in, do research, and instead of having to wait 5-15 years like in most of the places, they can actually see measurable change in less than 5 years because  Mongolia is one of those quick adapters. It's quick to accept, modify and work with new ideas and technologies that come in".

Marc then identified reasons that could motivate one to study about Mongolia. "Mongolia is an interesting and wonderful place. There's the whole history of the Mongol people and the global influence Mongolia's had. If you look at the last 2000 years, Mongolia's had huge influences on not only the developments in Asia, but also development of Europe and Central and Middle East. There are those applications that make Mongolia interesting".

Mongolia can also be studied environmentally and economically, he adds. "For example, the decrease in demand for raw materials and resources for a manufacture in China because of economic slowdown, it affected other countries, but it has been magnified in Mongolia. Mongolia is a sort of an indicator economy, country or environment, making it very interesting to study. Because then you can extrapolate from what happens here what could be going on globally".

Marc's third reason to study Mongolia is that there hasn't been much research that's been done. "One of the hardest things for a researcher is finding a new idea or a new subject to study. Mongolia offers a lot of stuff that hasn't been looked at such as environmental issues, economic growth, evolving modern culture, change of society mindset, lifestyle comparison and its transition from socialism to democracy in the last 25 years. There are many interesting aspects such as the huge generation divide in Mongolia of the over 40s and under 40s and their attitude, mentality, work ethic and values; one can find many great differences. These are all open for researchers to study and come up with new ideas and theories".

Marc also says, even the fact that Mongolia exists is something to study. "With China and Russia on each side, one of which could have swallowed Mongolia, how has Mongolia been able to play its diplomacy successfully, and managed to stay under the radar? That in itself is a tribute to the people and something that should be studied. There's a lot of stuff here that the world can learn from". 

I am just as important as you

Our interview proceeds to Marc's experience of living in Mongolia as the agenda is essential and natural with foreigners in Ulaanbaatar.

"Ulaanbaatar is a very easy city for an expat, for example, I walk to 80 percent of my errands. I also appreciate the quick pace of evolution of Ulaanbaatar during my 4-year stay such as the diversity and changes in restaurants and entertainment that's available. The quality of food and stuff found at supermarkets are about the same as what you can get in North America or Europe. Pricing is average or cheaper. The worst part is air quality in winter, but it is three months. Aside from those three months when you can't breathe, it's fine", he shares his opinion of the capital city.

"I love Mongolian food in the countryside, and don't like Mongolian food in Ulaanbaatar. When we are out in the countryside, we get real Mongolian food from gers and families in there. It's regular Mongolian dishes like buuz, tsuivan and huushuur, but it definitely tastes better in the countryside where also good airag, curd and milk are found", he says. Marc has been to 7-8 aimags including Khentii, Selenge and Khuvsgul. "I love the diversity of landscape in Mongolia. The environment of Mongolia is what captures most of the expats when they come here, the raw nature and beauty of what Mongolia is", he conveys.

Marc says he gets along very well with Mongolians, and he appreciates their honesty and openness. "They are not afraid to speak their mind regardless they are old and young. They tend to be very open and honest with their expressions and feelings about what's happening. And to me that's refreshing because everybody is trying to be so politically correct", he explains.

"And there's inner confidence almost bordering with arrogance in Mongolians. For example, there is a trilateral meeting of Presidents of Mongolia, China and Russia, and the Mongolian side has an attitude that they are the same. We are talking about leaders of two most powerful nations in the world with Mongolia in the middle, but no, 'we are the Presidents of our countries, we are the same and we should be treated with same level of respect'. And it's not in an arrogant way; it's just of 'this is the way we are'. This is just not in politics, you see this in people. People expect to be respected for who and what they are, and not because of their position or money, but for a reason 'why am I any different than you'. I love that 'I am a person just as important as you, so treat me with equal respect' attitude of Mongolians", Marc makes out his opinion with an interesting example.

He then compares Mongolian society with that of others saying, "Mongolia is very difficult to classify. Some things about Mongolia are Asian, some not, some European and western and some not. It's not just from influences, but in behavior such as the relationships between men and women. Mongolian women are very different than other Asian women; they are not subservient or obedient. They are better educated and more outspoken; they are not afraid to make decisions, take the lead and make things happen. There's not a strong hierarchy in people-to-people relations. There's a respect for the elders and seniors, but everybody underneath is more or less the same. So those are very different things that I see in Mongolia. I think those are great things and part of what's made Mongolia strong. I think, it comes from the nomadic culture".

"To me, what differentiates Mongolians from other Asians and Europeans is strong sense of independence of being reliant on themselves and not bowing down to anyone because they are as good as everybody else", he adds. 

Marc also explains the uniqueness of Mongolia saying, "I don't think there's anywhere else in the world that behaves like Mongolia, that becomes very apparent to people. But I also worry about influences from other countries on the younger generation. It will be interesting to see how Mongolia manages these outside influences, adapt to it, and make it Mongolian which I am sure they will".

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Nomads of Mongolia: An insight into their tribes, traditions and culture

March 31 (MSN News) Mongolia, a country with just over three million people, is rich in history and culture. Landlocked between Russia and China, it is one of the few places on the planet where nomadic life still exists. Here is a look at the lives and culture of the people living in this remote land.

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Why I Love Mongolia: An Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author Jack Weatherford

March 7 (MIR Corporation) Jack Weatherford is a New York Times bestselling author of several acclaimed books on Genghis Khan and Mongolian history and culture, including Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World and The Secret History of the Mongol Queens. We caught up with Jack to ask him about his latest book, Genghis Khan and the Quest for God, as well as to discuss his fascination with the extraordinary land and people of Mongolia. 

What first drew you to Mongolia and to the study of Genghis Khan?

As a boy I read biographies of many great conquerors, but Genghis Khan was especially impressive. But, being a young kid, I was mostly interested in the war and adventure of his life; it took a long time to see him as anything more than just a conqueror.

Later when Mongolia opened to the outside after the fall of the Soviet Union and communism, I had the opportunity to visit Mongolia and resurrect those childhood interests. It was like beginning a new, late-life career, but mixed with my childhood interests and fantasies.

What made you want to write this book?

Going to Mongolia in 1998 made me see how much I misunderstood this great figure in history, and it made me want to explore this other aspect of his life. I did not want to write a book so much as to read one that explained his life in a fuller way. Only gradually did I realize that to read that book, I first had to write it.

What challenges did you encounter while researching and writing your book?

The biggest challenge was deciding to write the first book on Mongolian history. I was already in my 50s. I did not speak a word of any Asian language and had never had a course in anything Asian. But when I explained my inadequacies to [American author and historian] David McCullough, he gave me great courage with one simple question: "Have any of the experts written this book?"

After that, I had the determination to push ahead and learn the language and do whatever I had to do to write the history as I saw it. If I am wrong, I hope that superior scholars and experts will do a better job in their own time, but for now I struggle to understand Mongolian history and to share my great love of this country with other people who may be interested.

What surprised you most in your research?

The greatest surprise was how, once I had decided to push ahead with my research and writing, the people and resources simply appeared. Of course no academic agency, granting organization, or publisher would give money to finance a project by a totally unqualified person like me.

But the Mongolians came forward. Everywhere I went, people brought me food, built fires for me, fetched water, brought me horses, and shared whatever they had with me. They wanted to do everything possible to help me when they knew that I was studying their history.

In this way, I saw that the Mongolian people made this project possible, not through grants or money, but through their own work and assistance. The experience was truly remarkable and humbling for me. More than once, they explained it to me very simply: "You speak English, you can speak to the world and tell them who we are."

How has the legacy of Genghis Khan shaped Mongolia into the country it is today? Do you think he will continue to remain a relevant figure for future generations?

Genghis Khan created this nation from his own mind and imagination. He gave them a written language, made an army, created the law, gave the country a name. Without Genghis Khan, there is no Mongolia. As a person who writes history, I am always looking backward, but Genghis Khan was always looking forward toward the future of his nation and the world. The great empire that he created disappeared 150 years after his death; yet in some ways, I think that his greatest influence is yet to come.

He was a man ahead of his time in both the strategies by which he fought and the laws by which he organized society. He created diplomatic immunity, granted religious freedom to all people, freed all religions from taxes, outlawed the kidnapping or sale of women, and passed laws protecting land and water that are far stricter than any we have today. To label him an environmentalist, feminist, liberal, or democrat would be silly and anachronistic. He was a conqueror, but he was also more a man of the future than the past because we still have not been able to fulfill his vision of a just world.

How did travel figure into your research for this book?

Travel was the basis of my research. Other biographies written by excellent scholars were very helpful, but none of them had been to Mongolia and traveled the routes of Genghis Khan. In school we learn through our eyes and ears, but in life we learn through our feet and hands. By standing in the place where he stood, tasting the water, hearing the birds, smelling the horse sweat, and breathing the air, I began to understand the experiences recorded in the ancient chronicles.

Travel changes history from a document into an experience and from an experience into a story. My books on Mongolian history are not travel books, but every sentence is based upon travel, upon being there to experience that place being described.  

You've known Annie and Doug at MIR Corporation for many years. How has MIR Corporation made an impact on your research and travels to Mongolia and other destinations?

Doug and Annie have been with me on the entire process of research and writing. They organized my first travels into Inner Asia so that I could go into places where it was hard to get visas and permission, or find the support I needed. In Mongolia, I knew plenty of drivers, herders, scholars, and officials, but I was lost in TurkmenistanUzbekistanKyrgyzstanKazakhstan, and Western China. They facilitated my travel always with an eye for what I wanted and needed. They did not try to give me an experience; they made it possible for me to have my own experience.­­­­­­­­

During our two decades of friendship, I have grown as a writer, but I have seen Doug, Annie, and MIR also grow in a very important way. Just as I wanted to open Mongolian history to people through my writing, they helped to open Mongolia to the outside world, and they have helped to create a unique type of tourism. By partnering with only the highest quality people and organizations, MIR has helped to create a form of sustainable, just, and ethical tourism for a small number of people who share those goals.

As much as I want the whole world to recognize the importance of Mongolia in history, I do not want to see this country that I love so much overtaken by mass tours or people who tromp the steppe and trash the already fragile city. Tourism is very important to the economy and also to helping support cultural institutions in Mongolia, and in this way Doug and Annie have made a valuable contribution to Mongolia through developing the right kind or tourism for the right people.

I write books across time; Annie and Doug connect people across cultures. But we are both working for the same goal of crossing artificial social barriers and striving for a better world through mir, through peace.

How has Mongolia changed since your first visit to the country, and what do you predict will happen in the region in the coming decades?

UlaanBaatar has changed greatly and some parts of the countryside where there is now mining has changed, but I prefer to see the continuity. Aside from those areas and a few paved roads now, Mongolia has probably changed less in the last 800 years than any other country. If Genghis Khan returned to today he would be lost in UlaanBaatar, but only a short distance from the city he would be totally at home in the ger, speaking the language, eating the same food.

You've visited Mongolia many times and have lived there for several years. How difficult was it for you to get an understanding of Mongolian language and culture? What advice can you offer first-time travelers who want to connect with the local people?

The Mongolian language is quite difficult for Westerners. It took me years to have basic conversations. But the Mongols have dealt with foreigners for centuries. They know how to communicate beyond language. While reserved, they are not timid. They are eager to interact, and today English is more widely spoken and much better spoken than in most Asian countries.

The advice I try to give myself is to put aside my expectations. If everything is exactly the way the guidebook says it should be, if everything looks just like the programs on the travel channel, if everything on the to-see list pops up on schedule, then the trip is a waste. I saw and learned nothing. I simply replicated someone else's experience. If I am not taken out of my comfort zone, I am not traveling.

What have been some of your most enjoyable memories of your travels to Mongolia?

My love of Mongolia is rooted in two things: the landscape and the people. The landscape is spectacular in ways that cannot be put into words or photographs. The scale of Mongolia is overwhelming to the senses. It is not the view of a landscape; it is the experience of the landscape. No matter how well-organized a trip may be, the experience is unique. Some people feel overwhelmed by it, and others embrace it totally.

I am now a legal resident of Mongolia and have spent much of my life there over the past two decades, but every year I try to spend two months or so just traveling around the country. I revisit old places, find new ones. I keep thinking that soon I will have seen the whole country, and yet every year my desire to visit more places or my wish to return to an old place in a different season grows. I can never quite get enough of Mongolia, and I always think that my best experience is yet to come.

What sites would you say are not to be missed for a first-time traveler to Mongolia?

Visiting Mongolia is not like visiting France or China where there is a list of places, museums, monuments, and sites. Almost everything in Mongolia is different. As soon as I left the city [UlaanBaatar], I was transported into another world, a world that took my breath away.

Just come, breathe the air, let yourself go, and you will find something that you have never found before, and it will be different from anything that I or any other person has found.

What's next for you? Any places you would most like to travel to that you haven't had a chance to visit?

I have talked with Annie about IranGeorgiaArmenia, and Azerbaijan. I hope that they will come in their own time. 

My wife traveled with me throughout our marriage, and although she endured the challenges of multiple sclerosis for more than 30 years, she said that she was not going to sit home and wait to die. Death would have to work a little to find her. She did everything I did, but she did it in a wheelchair. I want to follow her example, and always be looking to the next trip, the next meal, the next friend, the next experience, the next idea. I write about the past, but I want to live in the present and look toward the future.

Travel to Mongolia with MIR

MIR has more than 30 years of experience handcrafting tours to Mongolia. Our full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure's list of "Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth."

You can view many of Mongolia's majestic sites on MIR's small group tours and rail journeys by private train:

SMALL GROUP TOURS

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Moscow and Mongolia, Bridged by Skype

April 1 (New York Times) Christine Ning-Chiun Yarng and Galen Murphy-Fahlgren were married March 28 at the bride's apartment in Arlington, Va. Dr. Apichai Shipper, a Universal Life minister and friend of the couple, officiated.

The bride, 34, will take her husband's name. She is a foreign service officer with the State Department in Washington. In October, she is to be posted to the consular affairs section of the United States Embassy in Ankara, Turkey. She graduated cum laude from Rice University and received a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. She also received a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

She is the daughter of Sufen Lin Yarng and Fuh-Cherng Yarng of Redmond, Wash. The bride's father retired as a vice president in New York for Taipei Fubon Bank. Her mother is a bookkeeper in Bellevue, Wash., for Marine Fishing International.

The groom, 27, is serving with the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group at the American Embassy in Paris. Before being stationed in France, beginning last year, he served in Hawaii, Afghanistan, Japan, Mongolia and Russia. He is studying online for a bachelor's degree in political science from Arizona State University.

He is a son of Rose A. Murphy and Eric Fahlgren of San Clemente, Calif. The groom's father, a software engineer in San Clemente, is the director of software development in the advanced surgical devices division of Smith & Nephew, a manufacturer of medical devices based in Leeds, England.

The couple met in January 2015 at baggage claim in Chinggis Khaan International Airport in Mongolia.

The previous month, Ms. Yarng had received a two-year posting as the assistant public affairs officer at the United States Embassy in Ulan Bator, and was now at the airport as a guide assigned to Dr. Shipper, a State Department visitor.

While there, Ms. Yarng was approached by Mr. Murphy-Fahlgren, who had been posted to the embassy as a member of the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group seven and a half months earlier. He had spotted Ms. Yarng's work identification badge peeking out from under her coat, which is against regulations.

"Your badge is showing," he said to her.

They chatted a bit and though Ms. Yarng thought "he was kind of cute and very nice," she kept the small talk to a minimum.

"I just started working at the embassy, so I was very much in work mode," she said.

Two weeks later they were back in each other's company, working as bartenders at an embassy Valentine's Day party.

"He was so easy to talk to," Ms. Yarng said. "He was also very intelligent and had a wry wit about him that I absolutely loved."

She got the chance to know him better in the ensuing weeks, bumping into him while walking a colleague's dog and again when he accepted her invitation to a gathering with her friends, and yet again when she accepted his invitation to dinner.

Over the next several months, they learned they had shared interests in ballet, hiking and travel. After she accompanied him on a 12-mile hike in August 2015 that began with a raucous karaoke session until 4 a.m., Mr. Murphy-Fahlgren was convinced that he had found his match.

"We actually got lost on the backpacking trip, and she just rolled with the punches," he said. "That told me that she was a flexible, laid-back kind of person who can still have a good time even when plans change."

In October 2015, Mr. Murphy-Fahlgren moved to a posting in Moscow (where he would remain until August 2016), while Ms. Yarng stayed in Mongolia, setting up a transcontinental relationship that grew with the assistance of Skype and email.

They reunited two months later, when he went to Taiwan, her birthplace, to visit Ms. Yarng and her extended family, including her 102-year-old grandfather, who deemed Mr. Murphy-Fahlgren "sturdy."

In April 2016, Mr. Murphy-Fahlgren proved his mettle, returning to Ulan Bator to propose. ("My grandfather is 104 now, and he still thinks Galen is sturdy," Ms. Yarng said.)

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Nature & Environment

Deadly winters, climate change spell doom for Mongolian herders

With pastures shrinking due to rising temperatures and overgrazing, consecutive years of an extreme winter phenomenon known as the dzud have decimated livestock and puts livelihoods at risk on the steppe

March 31 (South China Morning Post) The sheep lies on the ice-hard ground, its hind legs bent at an unnatural angle. Glazed eyes look like marbles in a head cocked to the side.

"When they died, all their legs were bloodied," says Batsuri Sharkhuu, pointing at the exposed flesh on the carcass' front legs. "That means that when they used their hooves to chop at the snow, it hurt them. On all their front legs, the skin is gone."

The 54-year-old herder is standing outside the wooden shed in which he is storing the carcasses of 20 of his animals. The sheep and goats, which Sharkhuu discovered dead one recent morning, represent just his latest loss – so far this winter, more than 100 of his 300 animals have perished, he says.

His face etched with weariness, Sharkhuu looks across the glittering snow that blankets the Darkhad Valley, in northwestern Mongolia. It is a beautiful sight, but the unending whiteness spells doom for his family. His ger (the traditional Mongolian tent) is just 10 minutes away by car, in Renchinlkhümbe district, and his wife is awaiting his return.

"Every day, my wife cries because all our animals are dying," he says. "She has had to take care of the animals a lot – she was the one who raised them."

Sharkhuu is among the more than 265,000 herders in the landlocked East Asian nation who have been hit hard by this winter's dzud, a Mongolian word that describes horrifying weather conditions and the resulting death of livestock from starvation.

With temperatures dipping as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius and intense snowstorms, this phenomenon visits the Mongolian countryside roughly once every decade, its predictability having given rise to the belief that it occurs during every Year of the Monkey. But 2017 marks the second consecutive year that Mongolia is experiencing one of these extreme-weather events, an alarming trend for a country in which 30 per cent of the population are herders.

[Mongolia's nomads: masters of their destiny in a changing world]

Scientists attribute the increasing frequency of dzuds to the effects of climate change and the overgrazing of Mongolia's steppes. An economic slowdown that has seen the price of meat and other animal-related exports plummet has com­pounded the misery being felt by herders.

"Of course, we cannot just blame the weather or the snow – there are causes that I believe are my fault, too, like my disability, which hinders me," says Sharkhuu, referring to a bad limp, the result of an old hip injury.

Sharkhuu now finds it difficult to herd livestock for long distances, to pastures uncovered by snow. This is his current problem, he explains, as all his livestock are likely to die if they cannot be moved.

"I am over 50 years old and I have been herding for a very long time. This year is the worst ever," he says. "It doesn't matter how many animals you have – maybe you are considered a wealthy man because of it. But this kind of winter can destroy our whole herd and our lives."

In Mongolia's northernmost Khövsgöl province, Darkhad Valley sits between the Ulaan Taiga and Khoridol Saridag mountain ranges. During the summer, the valley's rolling hills are lush and streams rich with sediment feed into grasslands. In the winter, though, life is put on hold. The trees are stripped bare, boughs heavy with ice and snow; the bubbling streams freeze so solid that van drivers struggling with shin-high snow elsewhere are able to use them as roads.

Darkhad Valley residents expect especially harsh winter conditions – what Sharkhuu Tsedenish, a recently retired meteorologist and climate scientist who has spent decades studying weather patterns in Mongolia, might describe as a dzud – every year, because of the formation of the mountain ranges. Winter temperatures regularly dip into the minus 45 to minus 50 degrees range.

"The people who live in this area might be the toughest people in the country because it is the northernmost point of it, which means it is the closest to the Arctic," Tsedenish says, folding his hands into a bowl shape. "The wind blows from Siberia to here but it never goes up [the Khoridol Saridag mountains; the air] just stays here.

"This means the Darkhad area is the Mongolian tundra," he explains. The people of Darkhad are, therefore, especially worried when what they understand as a dzuddevelops.

[Photo essay: Mongolia's fearless child jockeys race for glory at Naadam]

By March 29, 168,000 animals had perished as a result of the dzud this winter, affecting about 65,000 herder house­holds across Mongolia, says Davaajargal Baasansuren, team leader for the Mongolian Red Cross Society's (MRCS) Disaster Management Programme. "The dzud is not over yet. It will maybe reach 250,000 to 300,000 [animals]," warns Baasansuren. "Now the animals are getting weak and there is no new grass until almost June. They will face a lot of risk in the upcoming months."

The average depth of snow measured on winter mornings in the Darkhad Valley is about 10cm; in February, the depth averaged 30cm, says Tsedenish, a state of affairs that makes life almost intolerable for some herders now but does have a silver lining.

"The upside to this heavy snowfall is that it gives the area very good moisture," he says. "Hopefully, the moisture will give us more grass, which will therefore make a good summer for the herders."

Primarily, dzuds kill by making grass inaccessible to starving animals due to heavy snowfall, but other factors have an effect later in the year.

[Crossing the Mongolian steppe in a mud-spattered van]

"Normally, the dry period goes from April to June, and this period of the year is driest because the wind saps up the moisture," says Tsedenish, pointing to colourful, hand-drawn charts. "What I'm worried about is if [the dry period] goes for longer, going into July or August."

Climate change has already raised the average annual temperature in the Darkhad Valley by three degrees, he explains. The heat and dryness inhibit the growth of grass, leaving the land unable to provide enough nutrients for ever-growing herds as their owners prepare for a long winter.

"A dzud can also be created by too many families sharing the same grazing spot," says Tsedenish. "That means the animals will graze on a plot of land but there won't be enough food. Then, when winter comes, even if the snow is only a mere 5cm deep, they will still die [because they haven't been fattened up enough]."

Baasansuren describes the problem as a breakdown in pasture management.

"The nomadic herding lifestyle has been happening for thousands of years, and there has not been much tech­nolo­gi­cal change," he says. "[The problem arises] because of climate change, because of overgrazing, because many people are raising too many animals for the capacity of the pasture."

According to the Mongolian Wool and Cashmere Associ­ation, there were about four million goats nationwide in 1990; today, there are roughly 27 million feeding on Mongolia's steppes, which are also supporting increasing numbers of horses, cows, sheep and camels. With the nation's economy having been in decline for three years, the value of the Mongolian tugrik has fallen while the price of meat has halved – a factor that has encouraged herders to increase the size of their herds instead of selling off the animals.

For Nyamji Dolgorsuren, 46, the pasture-management habits of her youth are a thing of the past.

Born to a Darkhad Valley herder family, Dolgorsuren studied to become a doctor and often makes house calls to pregnant women and the elderly. When she is home, she helps her husband look after their 300 sheep and cows. They have so far lost 30 to this year's dzud.

"We used to graze animals in different pastures, like the cows and horses would have different pastures from the sheep and goats," says Dolgorsuren. "Now, we graze com­mu­nally with other people. No matter how small or big the herds are [herders graze their animals wherever they can]."

Her familyhas penned off a section of their ger for the weaker sheep or goats. It is empty when we visit.

"We would pick the weak ones and keep them in the ger with us. They would look different, weaker, and we would try to feed them," says Dolgorsuren. "But then they started dying one by one."

[Winners and losers in Mongolia's mining gold rush]

This month, feeble animals will begin to give birth, "but the weather forecast says it will get even colder, so we are worried about the babies," she says.

Dolgorsuren and her husband are also worried for their children. With two daughters in college – one is training to be a doctor, the other is studying agriculture – the loss of 30 animals has already dealt a financial blow to the family. They are about 500,000 tugrik (HK$1,580) in debt and are hoping that when the climate warms, they will still have enough goats, which they will comb for cashmere thread, to be able to repay what they owe.

"Being a herder is what we are used to, it's who we are. I cannot imagine our lives without animals," says Dolgorsuren. "The children are studying and they might take a different path in life. As parents, we will keep supporting them as much as possible by putting meat on the table. But if the winter is this difficult, then things will get tougher."

With livelihoods across the country in peril, the govern­ment would do well to implement policies to encourage herders to avoid overgrazing, says Baasansuren.

[Cash-strapped Mongolia is now selling jewellery and horses to pay debt]

The MRCS is distributing 245,000 tugrik each to families with fewer than 200 animals, he says, to help pay for hay and other animal feed.

"We are just responding and supporting the herders to prepare or to increase their preparedness during [the crisis], but the government must do something for its nation," he says. Naranchuluun Gelegjamts, senior officer of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry's livestock policy department, says the government is concerned and is aware of the need to plan ahead, but that it, too, is at the mercy of the weather.

"If a gan [a summer drought] happens, then the following winter is always very hard and a dzud will happen," she says. "If we have plenty of grain after the growing season, it gives us more animal feed, but this would require a good summer with plentiful rainfall. If the summer was gan, then the state plans to import animal feed."

The people of the Darkhad Valley, where there is already a shortage of hay and oats, can't afford to wait. In each ger that Post Magazine visits, herders inquire about the hay stocks in neighbouring Tsagaannuur district.

Sharkhuu recently visited Tsagaannuur and found that "people were trying to sell hay from three years ago. But it wouldn't have enough nutrients for the goats." He returned home empty-handed.

"After this winter, if some of our animals remain, we are just going to sell all of them, and then we will head to a village or a district to live there without animals," says the despon­dent herder. "I am tired of it."

Davaadorj Duuji's problems began soon after Tsagaan Sar, the Mongolian lunar new year, which fell on February 27. He and his family lost 20 sheep and goats over the course of 10 days.

"All the food was gone, so they just started dying, one by one," the 43-year-old says, seated in his warm ger. His family has cordoned off a small section of the ger, where four lambs are clambering around an adult goat wearing a canvas coat. Duuji says he brings into his home animals that have given up on finding food for themselves.

[Hong Kong photo auction to help Mongolia's suffering tent children]

"We exist because of the animals, but to take care of them, we are nearly dying," he says.

He has been feeding his livestock grain pellets – "It is as filling as hay and oats but it is more expensive," he says."But this is the last bag we have. It'll last about two days. I have no idea what we will do next."

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Mongolia to host Asia Partnership meeting on Disaster Risk Reduction

March 31 (news.mn) The Government of Mongolia and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in collaboration with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, UN-ISDR) will host the ISDR Asia Partnership (IAP) meeting in Ulaanbaatar on 4th-5th of April.

The main focus of the three-day IAP meeting will be to discuss  substantive preparation for the Asia Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR). Mongolia will also host the Asian Ministerial Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) in 2018. 

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Ulaanbaatar to host Int'l Conference on disaster risk reductionMontsame, March 31

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UN Special Representative to visit Mongolia for disaster risk meeting

March 31 (news.mn) Robert Glasser, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction will visit Mongolia for the ISDR Asia Partnership (IAP) meeting. He will speak at the opening ceremony of the meeting in Ulaanbaatar on 4th-5th of April. During visit, Mr Glasser will sign a cooperation agreement with Deputy Prime Minister U.Khurelsukh and also meet Prime Minister J.Erdenebat as well as D.Oyunkhorol, Minister of the Environment, Green Development and Tourism.

An Australian, Robert Glasser was appointed as Assistant Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) in 2016.

Mr. Glasser is currently Executive-in-Residence at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, where he focuses on the humanitarian impacts of climate change.  He brings to the UNISDR over 20 years of experience in disaster response and fighting poverty.  Born in 1959, Mr. Glasser holds a PhD in international relations (strategic studies) from the National University of Australia.

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Sports

Mongolian senior speed-skaters claim 4 cups in Netherlands

Ulaanbaatar, March 31 (MONTSAME) At the International Long Distance Speed Skating Masters Competition, held on March 20 and 21 in Heerenveen of the Netherlands, Mongolian skaters claimed first places in their respective age categories.

The Mongolian national team of senior speed-skaters were headed by Master of Sports M.Tsetsegee and comprised International Masters of Sports L.Altantsetseg and N.Erdenetuya and Master of Sports M.Munkhtsetseg. They all have raised the Mongolian flag above the podium, having championed the 5,000 and 3,000 meter races in their age categories.

The team is returning home today. 

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Meeting the mother of the Olle Trails: an odyssey

April 1 (Korea JoongAng Daily) I imagined a woman with a strong physical presence, a smoker of three or four packs of cigarettes a day with a husky voice and considerable charisma. My interview subject's reputation precedes her: she started the craze for walking in this country with the Jeju Olle Trails.

But on finally meeting Seo Myung-sook, CEO of Jeju Olle, the only expectation that came partly true was that she used to smoke - but quit, disgusted by the continuing cigarette price hikes. Seo had a small frame and, at 60, was the perfect middle-aged belle. It's a reflection of Seo's popularity that if she ever chose to run for the national assembly or for governor of Jeju, many are sure she'd be elected handily. 

I have to ask a tiresome question. Although the Olle Trails are famous and admired, they are also blamed for rising land prices, a population increase in Jeju and damage to the environment.

I heard that while you were walking the [pilgrimage route of] Camino de Santiago in Spain, a Brit you met proposed the idea of the Olle Trails. There is interest in the Jeju Olle Trails outside Korea. How's the progress of the Olle Trails being built in Mongolia? If one goes to Mongolia, isn't it all steppe anyway? 

It may sound quite sudden, but first I have to explain my relationship with Mongolia, and going forward, [the] Jeju people's relationship with Mongolia. For over 100 years, Jeju was dominated by the Mongols. Without doubt our blood is mixed. Maybe that's why Mongolia doesn't seem like a foreign country to me. So, when I received an invitation [from Mongolia], I didn't hesitate to go. If one is a Korean, don't they carry that Mongolian blue spot above their rear? There's probably Mongolian blood running in my veins.

It's an old saying that Mongolians are pure. I don't know. The circumstances aren't normal. Rapid industrialization and urbanization is ongoing. The past straightforward paths people used to travel on are [being] paved and are disappearing without a trace. The trails traveled by the descendants of Genghis Khan should be restored to their previous state before it's too late. The Olle Trail will open in June. If you're skeptical, buy a plane ticket and let's go together. A wise answer to a silly question, the answer to our questions lies in the site. If you go, you'll know.

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Travel

Mongolian Sojourn in the Land of Genghis Khan

April 1 (tours.com) Strength for hand-to-hand combat, accurate archers, and fast horses – all three were required for Genghis Khan's warriors in the 13th Century and each is a component of Mongolia's annual Naadam Festival today. For those visiting Mongolia the competitions are a huge draw and part of the reason I came this way.

Mongolian wrestling is for men only, but archery has expanded to include female competitors. Adolescent boys ride the horses for the races, because (our guide explained) the idea is to test the ability of the steed, not the rider.

There are Naadam games held in mid-July throughout the entire region each year, with the largest taking place in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of the country of Mongolia. Note: Naadam's three sets of competitions are held in either the independent country of Mongolia (sometimes referred to as Outer Mongolia) or the region of China northwest of Beijing, often referred to as Inner Mongolia.

Tour season is short in this area of the Central Asian steppes. At the time of this writing (late January), the daytime temps in Ulaanbaatar are -27° F. The city has an average annual temperature just below freezing, making it the coldest capital in the world. Mid-summer, when the temps are reliably in the 60s, that is probably the best time to visit.

I spent close to a month in Asia, visiting both Inner and Outer Mongolia.

My first stop was Ulaanbaatar (the name, conferred on an existing town by the Soviets in 1924, means "Red Hero"). In addition to the games (held each year from July 11 to 13), there was time to visit a couple of museums: one delineating natural history and the other showcasing Mongolian Art, as well as the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, built about 1900.

In Ulaanbaatar, the games are held each year from July 11 to 13. Both wrestling and archery take place in a stadium near downtown and the horse races out on the steppes. The races start far from the finish line – between 15 and 30 kilometers, the length determined by the horse's age. The jockeys – mostly boys — range in age from 5 to 12.

Eight centuries ago the Mongols were a fierce whirlwind sweeping out of the east, bringing unimaginable death and destruction to central Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe over the course of a century or so.

The Mongol hordes, led by Genghis Khan, were a military force like nothing seen before. Some 100,000 ferocious and bloodthirsty mounted soldiers used the medieval version of shock and awe to subdue cities and kingdoms, creating the largest contiguous land empire in history stretching at its peak from Hungary to China.

Dynastic squabbles eventually dismantled the empire, but its heartland – Mongolia, survives today – partly within the People's Republic of China and partly as an independent country.
The country of Mongolia remains an intriguing mix of cultures: a bit Chinese (Genghis Khan's grandson, Kublai Khan, established the Yuan dynasty in China), an overlay of Russian from the Soviet years and at its foundation, proud Mongols.

The Mongol language was forced to fit the Cyrillic alphabet during the Soviet era, but is reclaiming its elegant Mongol script, seen now in the signage in Ulaanbaatar.

Outside the capital, it's hard to navigate without a native guide. Roads are mostly tracks in the wilderness, signage is indecipherable to the Westerner, gas stations are few and far between and distances are vast.

To avoid the hassles, I booked my trip through Travel All Mongolia. The tour group leader, who stayed with us for the 10-day journey, was an English teacher during the school year.

Using a combination of airplane flights and van transits we managed a comprehensive visit to this through exotic landscape.

In the Gobi Desert, we stayed in gers (sometimes called yurts). Tourist camps are rows of these traditional round felted tents albeit with beds, two to a unit. Some had pot-bellied stoves, but the weather was warm enough that they weren't needed.

In five of the six places we stayed, there were electric lights and outlets in the gers (a tourist does have to recharge camera batteries, after all). Bathhouses, much as you may remember them from summers at sleep-away camp, provide Western toilets, showers, and sinks.

Karakorum, located at a confluence of ancient trading routes in the Orkhon Valley, was the first Mongol capital; it's where Genghis Khan held court. When Kublai Khan decamped to what is now Beijing, the buildings were taken apart and the stones used to erect Erdene Zuu Khiid, the first Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. The Soviet era ended that use (Stalinist purges in 1937 shut it down completely). Erdene Zuu's religious purpose was restored with the collapse of Communism in 1990, and it's worth paying the admission price to see inside the three temples.

It's easy to spot the monastery from afar — the enormous wall (400 meters square) enclosing the complex is topped with 108 identical stupas. Outside the monastery are two enormous stone turtles, four of which originally marked the boundary corners of Karakorum.

  • A stop in Hustai National Park offers a far-off glimpse of one of the modern era's conservation success stories. Once extinct on the Central Steppes, the wild horse called the takhi (or Przewalski's horse, after the Russian explorer who identified the species) has been reintroduced in Mongolia and appears to be thriving. Definitely a skittish equine breed, tourists can glimpse them only at a distance.
  • The Khongoryn Els (also known as the Singing Sand Dunes) are vast — desert sand dunes that can be as much as 1,000 feet high, more than 7 miles wide and about 65 miles long. And, yes, when you stand still and listen, the wind moving the sand about does seem to "sing."
  • A hike along the Yol Stream takes visitors to the unexpected sight of blue ice (glacier remnants) hidden from the sun in the deep gorges of the Yolyn Am.
  • About 33 kilometers from Ulaanbaatar is the Genghis Khan statue – 40 meters tall, it's visible for miles. It was crafted from tons of stainless steel. The legendary emperor is astride his horse, leading his soldiers toward another victory.  I bypassed the museum at the base to climb to the top of the horse's head for the seemingly endless view.

At 1,564,116 square kilometers, Mongolia is the 18th largest and most sparsely populated sovereign country in the world with a population of three million.

Just across the border to the south is Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region of northern China that's slightly smaller in area and with a population of 25 million.

The contrast is stark. In Mongolia, the wide open spaces pan to vast herds of thousands of sheep, goats or camels tended by nomadic herders who've followed the same way of life for generations. In Inner Mongolia, herders are restricted to a mere 200 animals , or make that 500 if a bribe to a local official is successful.

You will also find factories and mining operations pretty much everywhere in Inner Mongolia. Instead of blue skies, as is the view further north, a heavy layer of pollution coats the land, even in the countryside). Mining is probably the biggest threat to the region: copper, gold, uranium, silver and coal mines in Outer Mongolia, rare earths, natural gas, and coal in Inner Mongolia, which is China's ­second-largest coal-producing region.

The tourist gers in this Mongolia might be considered more primitive in Inner Mongolia. They may or may not contain beds (we slept four to a ger on a rug placed atop a concrete floor) and they may or may not include plumbing (yes, our toilet was a hole in the floor of a three-sided adobe-brick stall).

For visitors seeking to fulfill a bucketlst pledge of seeing Mongolia as the vast, historic and untouched region most of it remains while managing as much luxury inside such a trip as can be had, a trip with Nomadic Expeditions and a compelling stay at Three Camel Lodge in The Gobi may be just the ticket.

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14 Chinggis Avenue, Sukhbaatar District 1

Ulaanbaatar 14251, Mongolia
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    My name is Ahmad Asnul Brunei, I contacted Mr Osman Loan Firm for a business loan amount of $250,000, Then i was told about the step of approving my requested loan amount, after taking the risk again because i was so much desperate of setting up a business to my greatest surprise, the loan amount was credited to my bank account within 24 banking hours without any stress of getting my loan. I was surprise because i was first fall a victim of scam! If you are interested of securing any loan amount & you are located in any country, I'll advise you can contact Mr Osman Loan Firm via email osmanloanserves@gmail.com

    LOAN APPLICATION INFORMATION FORM
    First name......
    Middle name.....
    2) Gender:.........
    3) Loan Amount Needed:.........
    4) Loan Duration:.........
    5) Country:.........
    6) Home Address:.........
    7) Mobile Number:.........
    8) Email address..........
    9) Monthly Income:.....................
    10) Occupation:...........................
    11)Which site did you here about us.....................
    Thanks and Best Regards.
    Derek Email osmanloanserves@gmail.com

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